The Daily Beet

05 Feb Engine 2 Challenge: No Recipe, Recipes.

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If you’ve started the challenge you might feel overwhelmed with meal planning. There are 1000’s of plant-strong recipes out there. Websites, blogs, cookbooks, all have what feels like an unlimited options.

You can definitely follow recipes and meal plans, word for word, step-by-step. But what if you are not a recipe person? Or what if you are short on time and want things to be a little more simple? In our free eBooks that we have provided for the Engine 2 Challenge we purposely did not include recipes for every single meal. Why is that?

Lets be honest, how many of us have the time to prepare a recipe for every single meal? Most of the time, at least in our house, there are days in which we are rushing around, we didn’t grocery shop and we’re staring at the fridge and the pantry asking “what do we cook??”

Many people are afraid to venture outside of the world of no recipes. But we want you to be empowered in the kitchen, and to always be able to come up with something.

First, when you go grocery shopping always pick up a few things that are shelf stable or that will keep in the freezer/refrigerator for a while. Especially frozen food! Frozen food has gotten a bad reputation over the past few years, however it can be a great, healthy part of your plant-strong life. Frozen fruits, frozen greens and vegetables are often picked right from the field, then flash frozen, often making them fresher than “fresh”. Many times produce sits on trucks for a while before it gets to the grocery store, and then can sit there for a little while before finally ending up in your cart. So if you want fresh, frozen is often the way to go. You can also find frozen grains and beans in the freezer section now and of course our frozen grain blends and plant-burgers can be found at Whole Foods.

You also end up wasting a lot less. It doesn’t go bad, so you don’t end up throwing away food and that means you save money. Next time you are at the store, throw a few extra bags of frozen food in your cart.

Next you will want to make sure you have an extra box of rolled oats, I always have at least 2 in my pantry. I know that even if everything else is empty, I can always make a bowl of oats! You can also stock up on brown rice, quinoa, whole grain pasta and other whole grains that will keep in your pantry for a while.

After that, get some beans! You can buy canned (low sodium) beans, many now have BPA free lining! You can also pick up boxed beans which are all BPA free and of course you can pick up a few bags of beans, or stock up in the bulk section.

Next you are going to want to get some spices. Look for some tasty, no-salt-added spice blends to have on hand. You can also pick up some balsamic vinegars (flavored and plain) , a couple jars of BBQ sauce and a few jars of salsa.

Now your kitchen is plant-strong ready, anytime of day or night!

It’s easy to make a plant-strong meal out of the ingredients you picked up.

In a large pot or wok, throw in some frozen veggies, I don’t thaw them, I just throw them in, not adding anything to the pan, because there is enough condensation to cook them well. They also won’t turn out mushy, because you are pan frying them rather than boiling them. The vegetables generally take the longest to cook. When the vegetables are  almost completely cooked that is when you’ll want to add some beans and a grain.

From there it is a matter of what culinary adventure you want to go on! You get to add spices. Spices will determine if you are making an Italian dish or a BBQ dish. When it is heated all the way through you can then top it off with a balsamic vinegar, salsa or other favorite condiment (like BBQ sauce).

You can make 100’s of different meals this way! There is never a reason to be stuck in the kitchen, and you don’t have to follow one recipe. Get creative and be brave in the kitchen. See what culinary masterpiece you can come up with, without exact measurements and instructions. Every person that we’ve talked to who has been plant-strong 15+ years tells us the same thing: they can remain plant-strong because they have made things very easy in the kitchen, they do not complicate things at all, and while they like to try out the occasional recipe, they stick to basic ingredients, and basic meal ideas.

What will you create?

Here are a few of our favorite meal combinations:

  • Sweet potato, kale, white beans, brown rice.
  • White potato, black beans, tomatoes, corn, spinach.
  • Quinoa, mixed greens, red beans, cauliflower
  • Brown rice, chickpeas, peas, zucchini,  curry powder, turmeric
  • White beans, fingerling potatoes, brussel sprouts, garlic, kale.
  • Whole grain pasta, zucchini,  brocoli, peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes
  • Lentils, collard greens, brown rice, artichoke
  • Potatoes, portobello mushrooms, green beans,  spinach, black beans
  • Whole grain  pasta, lentils, strained tomatoes (or tomato puree), garlic, brocoli
  • Whole grain bread with portobello mushrooms, grilled zucchini and oil free hummus.
  • Wild rice, onion, red lentils, greens
  • Brown rice, salsa, frozen southwestern veggie mix, black beans
  • Sweet potato, topped with black beans
  • Brown rice, black pepper, asian style veggie mix.
  • Cauliflower soup – cook cauliflower, blend add chickpeas.
  • Whole grain pasta cooked and chilled, cucumber, tomato, beans, balsamic vinegar
  • Mashed chickpeas, onion, garlic, chopped celery, cucumber served on whole grain bread
  • Lentils, chopped tomato, lettuce, spinach, salsa, served on lettuce or served in corn tortillas
  • Roasted vegetable mix & quinoa
  • Beans & brown rice
  • Spinach salad: strawberries, raisins, balsamic
  • Chop salad: chopped cucumber, celery, carrots, zucchini, tossed with quinoa.
  • Big salad: Whatever fresh vegetables you have on top of greens. (the whatever salad!)
  • *Salad is always a good option if you have fresh vegetables/greens laying around. You can use balsamic vinegar for a dressing, salsa or even just lemon.
  • Huge plate of steamed vegetables with spices.
  • Breakfast: oatmeal or quinoa with fruit and ground flaxseed
  • Breakfast: Rip’s big bowl (of course!)
  • Looking for an easy dressing? We use low sodium salsa, oil free hummus or balsamic vinegar. 
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Natala Constantine
  • Jay Bird

    But will it look pretty, like the pictures in the books?

  • Alicia

    I have tried the mighty muffins(actually loaf version) and A-2-Z muffins(twice) and all of them are not fully cooked through and very wet in center. I have followed the recipe and not not sure what I’m doing wrong. I even tried cooking longer in oven. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, as I wasn’t sure where to post this….

  • Guest

    I have to admit, this is one of the reasons why this works for me. I had always not enjoyed cooking, especially meat or anything slimy. Since plants are not slimy (or at least not gross like meat), I can pretty much feel comfortable throwing things together with my favorite seasonings and know it will be okay. :) Maybe eventually I will venture more into the recipes, but I like the salads and stir fry dinners I’ve made. The two recipes I do use relatively regularly is the Sweet Potato Bowl and a tofu scramble! YUM. I think my plan is to try a new one a week. :)

  • Misty

    love this post. brown rice, roasted veggies, beans and tahini is my most favorite meal in the world. this list is super handy to keep on hand for instant meal (and pantry stocking) ideas. thanks!

  • Dana Baird Beazley

    Most of the time I keep it simple but there are times I want to try out a new recipe , being prepared AHEAD of time helps me so I am not running around wondering what I am going to eat. I make enough to last me two or three days and then on the third day I cook again for future days that is what works for me and keeping a salad box with cut up veggies in the fridge,one big plastic container with smaller ones to hold different veggies and one to hold my romaine or spring mix. Hope this helps someone.

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